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  • Philosophy as Saṃvāda and Svarāj: Dialogical Meditations on Daya Krishna and Ramchandra Gandhi ed. by Shail Mayaram
  • Sibesh Bhattacharya (bio)
Philosophy as Saṃvāda and Svarāj: Dialogical Meditations on Daya Krishna and Ramchandra Gandhi. Edited by Shail Mayaram. New Delhi: Sage Publications India Pvt Ltd, 2014. Pp. xlvi + 305. Hardcover Rs 895, isbn 978-81-321-1121-4.

As its title indicates, Philosophy as Saṃvāda and Svarāj: Dialogical Meditations on Daya Krishna and Ramchandra Gandhi, edited by Shail Mayaram, centers on two figures who can both easily be counted among the most stimulating thinkers of the recent past associated with the profession of teaching philosophy in Indian universities. That the formal association of Ramchandra Gandhi with the university teaching system was terminated in the later part of his career is both unfortunate and a not too happy commentary on the character of academic establishments.

The book focuses on what the editor has termed “philosophy as saṃvāda and svarāj,” which seems to have been conceived as providing the thematic unity to the volume. It grew out of a seminar on the same theme — although not limited by it — hosted by the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, from which Shail Mayaram has stitched together this interesting collection of essays. Daya Krishna and Ramchandra Gandhi shared many things, including their passion for doing philosophy far exceeding the requirements of teaching the subject well (not common among teachers in India), their abiding love for the tradition of philosophizing in India, and their zeal for securing the deserved place of honor for that tradition in the contemporary philosophical community. Moreover, their passing one right after the other has bound them in a special kind of way. Both died in 2007 — Ramchandra Gandhi on June 13 and Daya Krishna on October 5, the younger having predeceased the older by four months, Daya Krishna being thirteen years senior to Ramchandra Gandhi.

And yet they were the opposite of each other in many respects. Ramchandra Gandhi was a mystic at core, Daya Krishna a vocal rationalist. Gandhi was a hardcore nondualist; variety for him was but the lively manifestations of the indivisible one. Thus the mosque in ‘Sita’s Kitchen’ in Ayodhya was not an anachronism at all; it was something to be celebrated. Sita’s Kitchen served what it ought to have served: a dish of Sufi mysticism. Gandhi believed in the mystical efficacy and power of chanting; he kept on chanting sacred names by the side of his mother’s deathbed.

It is well-nigh impossible to associate Daya Krishna with such an attitude, his seeking to understand in philosophical terms the feeling of Bhakti notwithstanding. One of his primary concerns was to rehabilitate India’s philosophical heritage from its antiquarian museum existence into the main thoroughfares of living philosophy. [End Page 342] He relentlessly attacked stereotyped perceptions of Indian philosophy: its alleged religious-spiritual nature and goal, the straight-jacketed perception that the six systems define the boundaries of India’s philosophical enterprise, the failure to see Indian philosophy beyond the bounds of sampradaya, that Indian philosophy is repetitive and clarificatory in nature rather than innovative, that it is predominantly only a bhashya or at best parishkara of long-standing stated positions, et cetera. Breaking free of molds and stereotypes was, to Daya Krishna, a sign of vitality and life. His instinctive sympathy lay with pluralism, for he rebelled against the idea of one overriding principle. His temperament and inclination were thus anti-Advaita. His campaign for demystifying Indian philosophy culminated in the hard-hitting essay: “Three Myths about Indian Philosophy” and in the follow-up studies Indian Philosophy: A New Approach and Indian Philosophy: A Counter Perspective. Naturally these have often been discussed and referred to; the present collection is a case in point.

However, toward the later part of Daya Krishna’s career one can perhaps detect somewhat of a softening of his stance toward the spiritual/transcendent from his earlier days. Two of the essays in the present collection, by Prasenjit Biswas and Ramesh C. Pradhan, discuss this point, as also does Mayaram’s “Introduction” (pp. xxxiv–xxxv...


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